By PAUL JONES / Special to the Journal
STARKVILLE – For much of the preseason, Mississippi State head coach Rick Stansbury has talked of the needed emergence of seniors Ravern Johnson and Kodi Augustus.
In Saturday’s 75-66 exhibition win over Lindsey Wilson, Stansbury got a glimpse of what he’s been wanting to see.
Johnson and Augustus combined for 44 points as the Bulldogs held off a scrappy NAIA squad that led MSU at the half. Johnson was 9 of 15 from the field for 25 points, while Augustus added 19 and had 11 rebounds.
“That’s the two guys we’ve got that have been here,” said Stansbury. “Our post situation with Elgin (Bailey), he gives you a big body and some toughness, but he has not played in basically a year-and-a-half. So a couple of guys we have to depend on even more so are Kodi and Ravern.
“I thought Kodi was aggressive. And we have to find things to give those guys to take a bigger part. Not just be like they’ve in their career and just be a piece out there. Their roles have to change because of the makeup of this basketball team.”
Augustus was 7 of 11 from the free throw line and 5 of 8 from the field. Known more for his outside shooting in previous seasons, Augustus was more active in the paint on Saturday on both ends.
“I just made a few shots, made a few shots when we needed it,” said Augustus. “Coach Stansbury, like I said earlier, wants me to be more conscious of taking too many threes. He wants me to get it to the paint.
“Just boxing out (on rebounds), and it seemed the ball was finding me. But that’s what we need. Coach talked about us getting out-rebounding at the half.”
Kalen Kimberland and Justin Archie paced Lindsey Wilson with 21 and 13 points, respectively. And both gave MSU struggles offensively.
“It was very obvious we were not very good, defensively,” said Stansbury. “Their guards (Kimberland and Archie) went and manufactured baskets any time they wanted to. We were not very smooth at either end. I played a lot of rotations and a lot of guys.”
“I do think, defensively, we were better in the second half. In the first half, we were fouling them every trip and there were no opportunities to get out in transition. They either scored or we fouled them. But we spurted out in the second half because we got some stops.”
Bailey, who missed most of last season with injuries, added 12 points for the Bulldogs. The junior center echoed his coach’s thoughts on defense.
“We got to pick up on defense real quick,” said Bailey. “The difference in the second half was we locked up. But we still have a lot of learning to do on defense.”
Sophomore center Renardo Sidney and junior guard Dee Bost did not play on Saturday. Bost is not eligible to play until January because of academics and a suspension, and Sidney must sit the first nine games of the year. Sidney could have played Saturday, but Stansbury said he was held out with a minor “leg injury”.
MSU opens the regular season Friday against Tennessee State in a 7 p.m. tip at Humphrey Coliseum.